National Farmers Union (NFU) President Roger Johnson today hailed the nation’s many and varied cooperatives, noting that they have brought both political and economic might to family farmers, ranchers and rural America for over a century.
“Since the founding of our organization 113 years ago, Farmers Union members have demonstrated that they not only believe in and belong to cooperatives, the cooperative concept is at the very heart of who we are and how we think as an organization,” said Johnson.
Johnson noted that October is National Cooperative Month, a point on the calendar when more than 29,000 cooperatives from across the nation undertake some form of educational outreach to ensure that people better understand the cooperative business model and how it can improve life for rural Americans. Johnson noted that cooperatives are more important than ever in rural America, given the fact that agriculture is increasingly highly concentrated on both the supply and demand sides of the equation.
“For Farmers Unions across this great nation, cooperatives are not only considered an effective business model, their founding principles go right to the heart of who we are as an organization,” said Johnson. “And honestly, they are one of the best tools we have to cope with and fight the continued economic concentration in agriculture,” he said.
Farmers Union’s roots in cooperatives go all the way back to the organization’s founding in Point, Texas, in 1902, when farmers began to see an increase in both political strength and visibility through strength in numbers.
“Our organization’s founders responded to sundry business practices that not only placed farmers and ranchers at a disadvantage, but actually pitted us against one another,” said Johnson.
After that realization, Farmers Union members went on to organize cooperatives that focused on storage warehouses, supply and marketing, purchasing, rural electric and even credit unions. Today, they’ve expanded even further, and in states like Michigan have even teamed up with public schools to provide local, nutritious food for school lunches in the “Farm to School” program.
Johnson noted that the NFU Foundation provides cooperative education in all of its programs, and in 2012, published curriculum on cooperatives, “Cooperatives: The Business of Teamwork.”
“Cooperatives to this day remain a vital cornerstone of rural American communities, forming the nexus of the rural economy and putting their money and efforts back into their communities,” said Johnson. “As an organization, we are committed to ensure that this smart business and empowerment model continues to help bring increased strength and prosperity to rural America, and we’re delighted that the cooperative spirit is reaching further than ever into new areas and ideas,” he said.